Tabitha Gentry (pictured), who claims to be a “sovereign citizen,” and six children (ages 14 months to 11 years old) moved in to a Memphis, Tenn., mansion (pictured below) last month and is now looking at charges of theft, burglary, and trespassing for allegedly squatting and claiming property rights on the foreclosed $3.2 million home. Last week, Gentry faced a preliminary hearing, where she was her own legal counsel, reports the U.K. Daily Mail.
The vacant sprawling mansion, which sits on four acres and is about 10,000 square feet with five bedrooms and seven baths, was foreclosed by the bank two years ago. Before Gentry was arrested for allegedly squatting last month, the bank ordered her to vacate the premises, after she had been living there with her family for one week.
Gentry reportedly filed transfer of inheritance paperwork with the Shelby County Register of Deeds on February 25th, stating she was “giving notice of my rightful ‘claim’ to my property on Shady Grove” and that she was doing so “in the name of Allah, the most high,” creator of the heavens and earth.”
Such filings of documents and takeovers of property by sovereign groups are part of what authorities call “paper terrorism.”
Police were notified by Gentry’s 15-year-old daughter, who reportedly asked that authorities move in and “storm” the mansion. In addition, the daughter called on her Aunt for help with a text.
The Aunt’s attorney, Kenneth Besser, told WREG, “They’ve [the Aunte and the 15-year-old] got a good relationship. She [the Aunt] received text messages and things like that gave her some concern so she took action.”
A warrant was issued by a judge that gave way to a heavily armed SWAT team with assault rifles to descend upon the home.
On March 8th, Gentry was arrested and dragged to jail reportedly spewing obscenities.
The 33-year-old, who calls herself Abka Re Bey, claims to be a sovereign citizen and part of the Moorish National Movement who believe that they are not subject to federal and state laws and taxes, and in some cases reject the American currency, Social Security identification, driver’s licenses, and other government documents. Nationwide, the group is about 300,000 strong and can be heavily armed; they also are known not to obey authority figures, such as police and military personnel.
The young woman, who family members say was a high school honor student/basketball player with a promising future, was reportedly introduced to the movement by someone she fell in love with. Soon after, she did an about-face, changing her name and appearance.
At the trial, Judge Loyce Lambert-Ryan, who reviewed the case against Gentry, explained why Gentry’s interpretation of squatter’s rights are incorrect:
“Even though you felt you had done all that was required and sent notices to the bank that you were taking the property, the laws of the state of Tennessee do not recognize those beliefs,” Lambert-Ryan said. “You’re not an heir apparent because you claim to be a Moorish National.”
Watch news coverage of Gentry’s arrest here:
Gentry, whose case was sent to the grand jury, received a lower bail amount from $2 million to $50,000 after she left the preliminary hearing.
At a custody hearing, Gentry temporarily lost custody of the 15-year-old to the Father, whose Attorney Johnny Rasberry added, “When you have someone locked in a compound basically, it’s a dangerous situation. He [the Father] wants his child out of it.”
The rest of Gentry’s children have been placed with family members.
Gentry was also indicted on aggravated assault charges that were dismissed by a lower court when she failed to appear last year. According to police, last fall she was charged with aggravated assault for trying to run over a police officer during a traffic stop in south Memphis. At the time, she provided police with a sovereign citizen ID card.